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Former senior European diplomat investigated over China spying claims

The Belgian prosecutor’s office declined to comment.

A European official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, identified the key subject of the investigation as a former German career diplomat, confirming details first published in the German magazine Der Spiegel.

During his long career, the former diplomat held senior posts in a number of European institutions, including the European Commission and the European External Action Service, the diplomatic and defense service of the European Union. He served as an E.U. ambassador in Asia before he left diplomacy in 2017 to join a lobbying firm.

The other two suspects work for a separate lobbying firm, according to German press reports.

Virginie Battu-Henriksson, a spokeswoman for the E.U. diplomatic service, said she was aware of the media reports but could not comment on an “ongoing investigation” by German authorities.

“Of course we are always ready to cooperate with national authorities,” Battu-Henriksson said. She said that no European Union buildings had been raided and that German authorities had not been in contact regarding the investigation.

The investigation comes at a time of heightened European concern about expanding Chinese spy networks in Europe. European countries have also been under pressure from the Trump administration not to use the services of Chinese tech giant Huawei as it rolls out its 5G networks on the continent, amid security concerns.

European Union officials were reported to have received internal warnings about the proliferation of Russian and Chinese spies in the vicinity of its Brussels offices last year.

The European diplomatic service has undertaken “protective measures” against hostile intelligence agencies, Battu-Henriksson said. Those include ensuring that staff is properly briefed on how to deal with both “human” and cyber threats, she said.

Aries reported from Brussels. Luisa Beck in Berlin contributed to this report.

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